In world mythology, magical beings and deities leveled their wrath at hapless humans by transforming them into animals. Television audiences of the ’60s and early ’70s were treated to a sanitized taste of malevolent incantations in the form of the ongoing trials of Darrin Stephens.
In the ABC series Bewitched, Darrin—played by Dicks Sargent and York—was married to everybody’s favorite sorceress, Samantha. To wed the mortal Darrin, Sam promised to give up her witchy ways. Unfortunately, her relatives made no such promise. Whether due to outright malice (Endora, Serena) or flawed spell casting (Aunt Clara, Dr. Bombay), Samantha’s kin constantly transmuted Darrin into any number of beasts. And Samantha, prohibited by Darrin to use her powers to so much as scrub a toilet, was always forced to change him back.
But what if she hadn’t?
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that this fountain, one of a pair found on Ohio Drive SW, resembles Darrin. That hair-tonicked part, that maniacal smile—and the body of a fish.
Or perhaps the fountain is a remnant of Bewitched: The Lost Episodes, broadcast in a parallel universe.
There, the creators of Bewitched felt the show needed to be updated. The Stephenses were good for yuks, yes. But, as was pointed out in more than one brainstorming session, they simply did not evoke the tensions that were ripping society apart.
It was time that Samantha got out of the house and made the personal political. Giving up the power to control space and time for a husband and a house in Scarsdale just wouldn’t fly.
So programming visionaries decided to dramatically alter the show. The Stephenses would move to Washington. Enraged by Darrin’s attempts to persuade tuna executives to sign with McMann and Tate, and in a fit of newly discovered ecofeminism, Sam would transform him into a permanent memorial of slaughtered dolphins and embed it in a bridge by Ohio Drive. Now a single mom, Sam would use her powers to subvert the plans of the white men on Capitol Hill.
Of course, in our universe, that didn’t happen. Kids would diss each other by saying, “Sorry, Charlie,” and chanting “Bum-bum-bumblebee, Bumblebee Tuna” on the playground.
Julia was canceled. No one minded that Carol Brady didn’t work. And perhaps Bewitched producer/director William Asher, who was married to star Elizabeth Montgomery, didn’t want to give her any big ideas.
A Washington City Paper T-shirt will be awarded to the person who can identify the Merman of Ohio Drive. Truly inspired answers will appear in next week’s edition if they reach us by Tuesday morning. Send your description, or suggestions of things that have been puzzling you, to: Mysteries, Washington City Paper, 2390 Champlain St. NW, Washington, DC 20009. Our fax number is (202) 462-8323, or e-mail us at MysteriesWashCP.com. No phone calls, please.